South African Government Response to the Report of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations (UN) Oil-for-Food Programme

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

FOR ORAL REPLY ON 16 NOVEMBER 2005

QUESTION NO 23

The leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) to ask the Deputy President:

(1) Whether the government has formulated a response to the report of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations (UN) Oil-for-Food Programme, particularly in respect of the sections relating to the involvement of The Presidency, the Department of Foreign Affairs and specific South African companies (names furnished); if not, why not; if so, what action will the government take against firms falling under their jurisdiction in this regard, as urged to by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan;

(2) whether relations between the government and the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party influenced South Africa's diplomacy towards the Iraqi Government of Saddam Hussein; if so, how;

(3) whether certain persons (names furnished) or any other person consulted with The Presidency regarding their visit to Baghdad, Iraq, in December 2000 either before or after their visit; if not, when did The Presidency first become aware of such visit;

(4) whether the President or anyone in The Presidency was informed that the President's name was used in his capacity as President of the Republic to give the impression that a certain person (name furnished) was acting on his behalf; if not, what action did The Presidency take when it became aware of this; if so, what are the relevant details?

REPLY:

1 and 4. Government has not as yet formulated a response to the report of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the Iraq UN Oil-for-Food Programme. We have instructed the Ministry of Justice to examine the whole report and give advice on the steps that our government should take. Whilst we await the response from the Ministry of Justice, we wish to reiterate that South Africa's Foreign Policy is based on South Africa's national interests and international law, and we reject any insinuation that such policy can be auctioned for private commercial purposes. As far as I am aware, The Presidency was not informed that anybody claimed to be the President's advisor.

2. Honourable Member, with regard to the other parts of your question, as you are aware, the South African Government conducts its international relations with other governments and not political parties. Such interaction is guided by our foreign policy objectives, which are well known and well considered. As such, government had no relations with the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party.

3. The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Aziz Pahad, officially visited Iraq a number of times between November 1999 and February 2003. During the November 1999 visit, the Deputy Minister was accompanied by a business delegation, which met separately with the Iraqi business community on trade-related issues. A member of the Department of Trade and Industry was also present on that occasion. Let me also state that business people or any other individuals do not necessarily require government permission in conducting their business with any partner of their choice, as long as this is done within the confines of the law of the land.

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